Union Church of Christ, Ludlow Mass

The Union Church of Christ on Center Street in Ludlow, before 1904. Image from The History of Ludlow, Massachusetts (1912).

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The church following its 1904-1905 renovation, photographed sometime between then and 1912. Image from The History of Ludlow, Massachusetts (1912).

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The church in 2015:

When the town of Ludlow was established in he 1700s, the center of the town was located in what was approximately the geographic center of Ludlow, at the corner of present-day Church Street and Center Street.  It was there that the first meetinghouse was built, and the location served as the religious and civic center of the town.  However, with the start of the Industrial Revolution, the town’s economic center began to shift to the southwest, along the Chicopee River.  The development of factories along this area, and the subsequent increase in population, meant that the workers needed a local church, and the owners of the Springfield Manufacturing Company decided to provide such a church.

The building was completed in 1845, and at first was used both by Congregationalists and Methodists.  However, neither group stayed long – the Methodists built their own church in 1847, and a year later the Springfield Manufacturing Company went bankrupt.  The Congregationalists disbanded, and the church was used only occasionally until 1867, when a new Congregational church formed.

As seen in the difference between the first two photos, the building was extensively remodeled in 1904-1905, with the addition of stained glass windows, a cupola, and a front porch, among other decorative elements to the exterior.  Another change came in 1961, when a wing was added to the south (left) side of the building; it is partially visible behind the small tree on the left.  Today, the building still looks very similar to its post-renovation appearance, and it continues to be an active United Church of Christ congregation.

First Church, Ludlow Mass

The First Church of Ludlow, at the corner of Church and Center Streets, around 1912.  Image from The History of Ludlow, Massachusetts (1912).

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The church in 2015:

The building in the first photo was the third meeting house for the First Church of Ludlow.  The first one stood right about where I took the second photo from, but was moved across Church Street in 1841, when the second church building was completed.  This one didn’t last long, though – it burned in 1859, and was replaced later in the year with the one seen above.  The third building stood for over 120 years, but it too burned, in a suspicious fire in 1980.  It was rebuilt on the same spot in 1982, and today, like many other “First Churches” in New England, it is part of the United Church of Christ denomination.

First Meetinghouse, Ludlow Mass

The First Meetinghouse building on Church Street in Ludlow, around 1912. Image from The History of Ludlow, Massachusetts (1912).

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The building in 2015:

Built in 1783, this is one of the oldest church buildings in the Connecticut River Valley, although it hasn’t functioned as a church in over 170 years.  It doesn’t look much like a church, but it actually hasn’t changed much in exterior appearance over the years.  The white, steepled churches that we commonly associate with New England towns were not yet universally adopted in the late 1700s.  Particularly in small towns, simple structures like this were still common, as seen in other places like Rockingham Vermont, where a similar-looking meeting house was built around the same time.

A steeple wasn’t the only thing that many of these early meeting houses lacked, though – another one was heat.  Some, like the one in Rockingham, still don’t have heat over 225 years later.  However, here in Ludlow a stove was finally installed in 1826.  Fifteen years later, a new church was built, and the old one was sold to Increase Sikes for the princely sum of $50 and moved across Church Street to its present location; it had previously been in what is now the triangle of land between Church Street and Center Street.  Sikes soon sold it back to the town, and it was used for town meetings until 1893, when the town offices were moved to the rapidly-growing industrial village along the Chicopee River in the southwest corner of town.

For many years, the building was used as a Grange Hall, until the town purchased it again in 2000.  Since then, the building has been restored, and it forms an important part of the Ludlow Center Historic District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Saint John the Baptist Church, Ludlow Mass

Saint John the Baptist Church on Hubbard Street in Ludlow, c.1906-1913.  Image courtesy of the Hubbard Memorial Library.

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The church in 2015:

This church, like Saint Paul’s Methodist Church just down the street, was built on land donated by the Ludlow Manufacturing Associates.  Because of its location along the Chicopee River, this part of Ludlow was developing into a mill town, and as a result many Catholic immigrants began moving into what had previously been a Protestant town.  Catholic mill workers had previously traveled across the river to Indian Orchard to worship, but in 1906 Saint John the Baptist Church opened as the first Catholic church in Ludlow.  To the left of the church is the rectory, which was completed in the same year as the church.  Today, it’s no longer the only Catholic church in town, but it remains an active congregation , and its appearance hasn’t changed much in the past century.  The angle of the present-day photo is a little off, though.  The spot that the original photo was taken is now a house, which was probably built for workers at Ludlow Manufacturing who attended the church across the street.

Saint Paul’s Methodist Church, Ludlow Mass

Saint Paul’s Methodist Church, at the corner of Hubbard and Sewall Streets in Ludlow, around 1905-1913. Image courtesy of the Hubbard Memorial Library.

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The church in 2015:


Saint Paul’s Methodist Church was built here in 1905, and the first photo shows how it appeared not long after its construction.  It was built on land donated by the Ludlow Manufacturing Associates, whose factory was just a few blocks down Sewall Street.  In 1917, a parsonage was built to the right of the church, and can be seen in the 2015 view.  Despite nearly 110 years in between the two photographs, the church is still easily recognizable.  The exterior now has modern siding instead of shingles, so the building did lose some of its Victorian style, but otherwise the building is very well preserved today.

Put’s Bridge, Springfield Mass

The old covered bridge across the Chicopee River from Springfield to Ludlow, taken from the Springfield side in 1897. Photo courtesy of the Hubbard Memorial Library.

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The present-day bridge in 2015:


Alternately called Putts Bridge, this spot at Wallamanumps Falls on the Chicopee River has long been the site of a bridge connecting Springfield and Ludlow.  The early accounts are somewhat vague, but the first bridge was built in either the late 1780s or early 1790s.  Either way, a bridge was definitely here by 1794; prior to that, Ludlow’s 500 or so residents would have to get to and from Springfield by fording the river, a task that I can’t image was particularly pleasant or safe.  The bridge was constructed by Eli Putnam, hence the name Put’s bridge.  However, bridges here didn’t seem to have much of a lifespan; in the next 30 years, three additional bridges would have to be constructed on this site.

The 1822 bridge must have been different, because it lasted until this 1897 photograph.  By this point, though, the 75 year old bridge was starting to show its age, and the next year it was replaced with a new iron bridge.  However, the replacement didn’t even last half as long as its predecessor before it was replaced by the current bridge in 1930.  Today, this concrete and steel bridge carries Route 21 across the river, and it still serves as the primary connection from Ludlow to Springfield.  The one difference in the location of these two photos is that the covered bridge was at a substantially lower elevation, so the 1897 photo would’ve actually been taken partway down the hill toward the river.  I could’ve recreated the scene from here, but I chose this location since it represents what the surface of bridge today looks like, rather than just the underside of it.